Logan Mencke

Staff Writer

The World Health Organization (WHO) is encouraging nations around the world to tax sugary drinks in an effort to help prevent obesity and Type 2 Diabetes.  But will American consumers be content in paying a little extra for their culturally beloved sweet drink, or will the push to tax sugary drinks fizzle out?

Presently, there is no discussion for federal legislation in the United States for a nationwide pop tax. However, four cities have passed their own local pop tax in the recent general election.

San Francisco, Oakland, and Albany, California have approved a one-cent per ounce tax on any non-alcoholic beverage with caloric sweeteners, according to the Washington Post.  A ballot for a two-cent per ounce tax was approved in Boulder, Colorado.  These cities hope to achieve the same outcome as Berkeley, California, which saw a 21 percent drop in pop consumption after implementing a tax on pop.

In decreasing the amount of soft drinks consumed, health experts are optimistic that it will help improve public health.  There are a variety of health risks with consuming sugary drinks.  

“They could contribute to empty calories that don’t add to nutritional value,” said Roseanne Kuncel, an adjunct instructor in the HPER Allied Health &  Nursing Division.  “Some people could actually become malnourished because the calories they’re drinking have no nutrition in them and their not getting the vitamins and minerals that are needed to support a healthy lifestyle.”

In addition to contributing to obesity and diabetes, sugary drinks are detrimental to dental care and can increase the risk of numerous types of cancer.

WHO’s proposition for a tax points to the success of Mexico’s tax reducing the amount of pop sales in the country.  According to the WHO, the tax has reduced the sales of pop by 6 percent in 2014 and as much as a 12 percent drop at the end of the year.  This success in Mexico has influenced other countries across South America to implement their own pop tax laws.  

European nations have been ahead of the curve in this regard. Hungary and France have taxed sugary products since 2011 and used the tax revenue to fund health-related initiatives.  Since 2012, France has received €300 million ($326 million U.S.) yearly in tax revenue.

Although there have been many successes in decreasing the consumption of unhealthy soft drinks with taxation, not everyone agrees that taxation is the correct method to improve public health. Critics argue that there is no evidence yet that taxation on soft drinks will help prevent obesity.  Any kind of positive results will take several years to be revealed.  

Furthermore, soft drinks may not be the only culprit in the worldwide obesity epidemic.  There are many different factors that contribute to obesity such as lack of exercise and fatty foods.

The economic impact of a tax is another area of grave concern.  If people are buying less soft drinks, that is less money distributed throughout the economy.  With a drop in sales, manufactures and retail stores may have no choice but to lay off workers.  According to the Los Angeles Times, Mexico saw a loss of 10,000 jobs due to the pop tax.